The prideful women of Jerusalem (Isa 3:16-3:17)

“Yahweh said.

‘Because the daughters of Zion

Are haughty,

They walk

With outstretched necks.

They glance wantonly

With their eyes.

They mince along

As they go.

They tinkle

With their feet.

Yahweh will afflict them

With scabs

On the heads

Of the daughters of Zion.

Yahweh will lay bare

Their secret parts.”

Now Isaiah presents another oracle of Yahweh about the prideful women of Zion in Jerusalem. The women of Zion were proud, since they stretched out their necks.   They were provocative with their wandering unrestrained sexual looks in their eyes. They minced or played around as they went their way. They made noises or tinkled bells with their feet as they walked to gain attention. Yahweh was not content to let this go. Instead he was going to put scabs on their heads. He was going to make them naked, revealing their private parts. Obviously, this is a strong anti-feminism attitude.

The blessings of the Lord (Sir 39:22-39:27)

“His blessing covers the dry land

Like a river.

His blessing drenches it

Like a flood.

But his wrath drives out

The nations.

He has turned a watered land

Into salt.

To the faithful,

His ways are straight.

But they are full of pitfalls

For the wicked.

From the beginning,

Good things were created

For the good.

But for the sinners,

Bad things.

The basic necessities of human life are

Water,

Fire,

Iron,

Salt,

Wheat flour,

Milk,

Honey,

The blood of the grape,

Oil,

And clothing.

All these are good

For the godly.

But for the sinners,

They turn into evils.”

Sirach remarks that the Lord’s blessing is a like a river on dry land or a drenching flood. However, he drives out countries with his wrath, as he has turned watered land into salt. The ways of the faithful are straight, but the wicked have all kinds of obstacles that they fall into. God created the good things, but the sinners get bad things. Then Sirach explained the basic necessities of life. I wonder if we would name all the same stuff. He had water, fire, iron, salt, wheat flour, milk, honey, grapes, oil, and clothing. These were good for the godly but evil for the sinners. In other words, you attitude towards them made them either good or bad.

Physicians (Sir 38:1-38:8)

“Honor physicians

For their services!

The Lord created them.

Their gift of healing

Comes from the Most High.

They are rewarded by the king.

The skill of the physicians

Makes them distinguished.

In the presence of the great men,

They are admired.

The Lord created medicines

Out of the earth.

The sensible ones

Will not despise them.

Was not water made sweet

With a tree?

Thus its power might be known.

He gave skill to human beings.

Thus he might be glorified

In his marvelous works.

By them,

The physician heals.

He takes away pain.

The pharmacist makes a mixture

From them.

God’s works

Will never be finished.

From him,

Health spreads over all the earth.”

Were physicians thought of as witch doctors or a kind of false idol worship? Sirach has a strong defense of these physicians. They are actually continuing the creative work of the Most High God with his gift of healing to the people. These distinguished and admired medical doctors are honored by kings because of their skills. The Lord has created healing medicines from the earth. Do not despise their human skills that heal and take away pain. The pharmacists make these mixtures to help the work of God, whose work is never finished. Thus health will spread over all the earth. Sirach has a definite pro-physician and pro-pharmacist attitude, unlike some Christian Scientists who are against medical doctors.

Gifts (Sir 18:15-18:18)

“My child!

Do not mix reproach

With your good deeds!

Do not spoil your gift

By harsh words!

Does not the dew give relief

From the scorching heat?

So a word is

Better than a gift.

Indeed,

Does not a word

Surpass a good gift?

Both are to be found

In a gracious man.

A fool is ungracious.

A fool is abusive.

The gift of a grudging giver

Makes the eyes dim.”

Be careful when you are giving gifts that your words and attitude not betray your good deed. Do not criticize when you are doing good deeds. Don’t spoil your gifts with unkind words. Just like the morning dew gives relief from the later noon day heat, so too a nice word might be better than a good gift, and even surpass it. The gracious man offers both good words and good gifts. On the other hand, the fool is both ungracious and insulting. People do not look favorably on a grudging giver.

The intervention of the high priest Alcimus (2 Macc 14:3-14:5)

“A certain Alcimus, who had formerly been high priest but had willfully defiled himself in the times of separation, realized that there was no way for him to be safe or to have access again to the holy altar. He then went to King Demetrius in about the one hundred and fifty-first year, presenting to him a crown of gold and a palm. Besides these things he presented some of the customary olive branches from the temple. During that day he kept quiet. However, he found an opportunity that furthered his mad purpose when he was invited by Demetrius to a meeting of the council. He was asked about the attitude and intentions of the Jews.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There it was King Demetrius I who made Alcimus the high priest from 162-159 BCE. This Alcimus was also the leader of the renegades in 1 Maccabees. Here he already is the high priest since Menelaus had preceded him as the high priest in Jerusalem before his death in 162 BCE. He had presented the new king with gold and palm branches as well as olive branches from the Temple. He had been quiet during the day, but then he was invited to a meeting with King Demetrius I and his council who wanted to know about the attitude and intentions of the Jews.